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Archive for September 5th, 2009

Photoblog: Anderton Boat Lift

Posted by indigodream on 5 September, 2009

The complete boat lift

The complete boat lift

The approach. Top tip - aim for the OPEN caisson!

The approach. Top tip - aim for the OPEN caisson!

There's plenty of headroom....

There's plenty of headroom....

The space beneath the caisson is dry...

The space beneath the caisson is dry...

Amazing - just one hydraulic 'beam' can lift a whole caisson and its contents

Amazing - just one hydraulic 'beam' can lift a whole caisson and its contents

First they lower the caisson gate....

First they lower the caisson gate....

Then they pump out the water between the caisson gate and the river gate...

Then they pump out the water between the caisson gate and the river gate...

Once the water's been pumped out then great locking 'wedges' are lowered into place and the caisson's ready to move

Once the water's been pumped out then great locking 'wedges' are lowered into place and the caisson's ready to move

On our way - that's the canal gate up ahead

On our way - that's the canal gate up ahead

Almost halfway - that's the opposite caisson coming down on the right

Almost halfway - that's the opposite caisson coming down on the right

Awesome views from almost 50 feet up....

Awesome views from almost 50 feet up....

It's a long way down...

It's a long way down...

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Here we are at the top - the opposite gate looks very precarious from here!

Here we are at the top - the opposite gate looks very precarious from here!

View from the aqueduct

View from the aqueduct

Closing the gates behind us....

Closing the gates behind us....

And opening the canal gate in front of us....

And opening the canal gate in front of us....

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The Odyssey 2009: Day 44

Posted by indigodream on 5 September, 2009

Monday 31st August

Vale Royal to Bridge 209 (Trent & Mersey)

Vale Royal moorings - looking downstream

Vale Royal moorings - looking downstream

There was a little more sense of urgency this morning – whereas the other locks open at 10am and stay open, Vale Royal has a lock downriver at 10am then there’s not another until 12 noon. Richard helped me to untie the boat – the plan was for him to walk the dogs down to the lock and I’d take the boat. Unfortunately I managed to drop one of our 2-way radios into the river – we searched for it with the boathook and the strap emerged once before sinking to the deeps forever. This put us under a little time pressure but I still got to the lock in plenty of time. It’s a little awkward as the horrible plastic pontoon which now forms the lock lay-by isn’t actually in sight of the lock! I cruised down to the lock, fearing that I might be too late, but the lock-keeper waved me back signalling 10am – precision timing, I was 2 minutes too early.

I was quite proud of the reverse manoeuvring that I did to bring the boat neatly into the pontoon. Richard had hoped that the dogs would be able to get back on board at the lock but the lockie won’t let people on/offload so the dogs had to be guided safely down the pontoon – this time without any mishap.

Leaving Vale Royal lock - you can see the 'works' on the right

Leaving Vale Royal lock - you can see the 'works' on the right

The lock-keeper had advised us to give the Anderton boat lift a ring as soon as we were through the lock. Just as well that we did – they had one free slot at 12.15pm – they were otherwise fully booked. Interestingly we could ring and find out about slot and be advised to get there by a certain time without having to pay the £5 booking fee – sweet. This gave us plenty of time to enjoy the stretch from Vale Lock to Hunts lock which was greatly improved by the absence of fishermen and rowers 🙂

We picked up Sue and Ken in Northwich, and we encountered some of the area’s now legendary kindness. Ken and Sue had been asking a local man where they could buy a pint of milk (the latte’s were under threat!) – he’d told them that the nearest place was Sainsbury’s which was too far away in the time that they had before we picked them up – never mind. Then just as they were boarding, the man ran to the boat and gave us a pint of milk from his own supplies – what a nice thing to do.

Northwich Shipyard

Northwich Shipyard

We got to the Anderton boat lift at 11.30am.  The ‘lift-keeper’ came down to talk us through the procedure and assured us that we had time to explore and admire the structure. After his clear explanation we knew exactly what to do and what to expect – that’s always reassuring.

Note: Dogs are not allowed off the boat here – either on the boat-lift moorings or further up on the viewing area.

The whole procedure of lifting/lowering took some time. The trip boat coming down was late, apparently they always are. The boats waiting in the lower caisson must have been there for around 20 minutes before the trip boat came in.  It was well past 12.15 when we got into the caisson and once we were there we had another wait while the boat coming down got into position. It’s impossible to get bored here though – the ‘lift-keeper’ explained the mechanism, we looked up, down and along the structure and took far too many photographs!

The Anderton Boatlift

The Anderton Boatlift

Throughout the process, the ‘lift-keepers’ carefully explained the procedures – it’s interesting at the top because we had to move from the caisson to the aqueduct then wait there while they shut the gate to the lift and opened the gate at the far end of the aqueduct. All stringent precautions to prevent the canal from draining into the river in an emergency! The lift-keeper kindly walked along the aqueduct to act as a lookout – there’s a fair bit of traffic on this stretch of the canal. He gave us the thumbs up and we moved into the winding hole – you can’t turn left out of the aqueduct – you have to turn right into the winding hole, turn, then head back up the canal.

The Trent & Mersey was so busy compared to the Weaver – bit of a shock really. There’s plenty of interest here though, with two tunnels and some stunning views over the Weaver Valley. The Saltersford Tunnel is on a timer – boats can enter from the south for the first 20 minutes past the hour. We arrived at 22 minutes past – what a dilemma! Richard decided to go for it, on the basis that there’d be a  time buffer to allow boats to clear the tunnel before they were allowed in the other way. He was right, though I did feel a bit sorry for the queue of three boats waiting on the other side.

Happy days.......

Happy days.......

We stopped for lunch shortly after the tunnel – there’s a wonderful view down towards Saltersford Lock on the Weaver – it looked like a fantasy land, like something glimpsed through the back of a wardrobe maybe…..

We spent the last bit of the cruise looking out for likely moorings – we’d need to leave the boat for 5 days and we needed to be reasonably close to a road for offloading. We eventually moored between Bridges 109 and 110 – there towpath’s very soft near the bridge but further on there’s a hard edging which made for a secure (we hope!) mooring. It was a bit of a trek back to the bridge. The boatyard kindly let us park our cars in their car park while we got organised – they lock the gates at 5pm-ish but we just made it out before they went home.

We set off South, writing ambitious lists of what we were going to achieve when we got home at 8.30pm. Ha Ha!!!

A glimpse of the beautiful Weaver valley from the lofty Ternt & Mersey

A glimpse of the beautiful Weaver valley from the lofty Trent & Mersey

Richard’s car broke down on the M40 (don’t ask). At least we broke down where there was a wide lay-by so we felt safe to sit in the car while we waited almost 2 hours for the RAC to arrive (promised time was 30 minutes). There was also a path off the motorway onto a leafy lane behind – this was a good spot for dog-walking (on-lead). There was a car parked in the lane with a single male occupant – he was very pleasant but I did wonder what he was doing there. I didn’t feel threatened – Blue unexpectedly caught a rabbit in the bushes (even though he was on the lead) and you should have seen the look in the lone man’s eyes when this big dog strutted past proudly with a rabbit dangling from his mouth!

Luckily Richard’s car was fixable, just needed the right tools so we were able to drive home. We didn’t get back until 11.30pm, to a house made messy by building work. I wish I’d stayed on the boat but Blue and Lou were delighted to be back on their ‘proper’ duvets.

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The Odyssey 2009: Day 43

Posted by indigodream on 5 September, 2009

Sunday 30th August

Northwich to Vale Royal

Considering what an eventful weekend we’ve had, today was unusually quiet.

Inside Hunts Lock

Inside Hunts Lock - see that cog mechanism inside the gates

We had a peaceful night in Northwich – it seems to be a very civilised town which makes boaters like us feel very welcome. A good night’s sleep mean that we got up relatively early (by Indigo Dream standards) and the relaxed lock opening hours mean that we had time to loaf around, enjoying our lattes and giving Lou a big fuss (Blue doesn’t go in for that sort of thing – he’s such a boy).

By 10am we were are Hunt’s lock – their first punters of the day. Unlike the other locks, here they use the smaller of the two locks (still enormous!) on the left – it’s pretty obvious when you see the moorings. The dogs had a rummage, there’s plenty of mooring against the wall,  though we were horrified to see yet another plastic pontoon further up – apparently they’ve been recently installed along the length of the Weaver.

Working the lock

Working the lock

It was nice to see the cheerful lady lock-keeper from Dutton Lock on duty here today, along with a muscular male colleague. They were definitely needed as these lock gates are on a huge cog and it takes an immense amount of effort to shift them. Very nice for us to be spectators!

We mentioned the horrible plastic pontoons to the lockies and it seems that they’re not popular – not only are they very slippery but the local kids seem to think that they’re diving platforms and the lockies spend quite a bit of their time chasing them off. We had though of complaining to BW after Lou’s fall yesterday but we thought that they’d dismiss our concerns because ‘dogs shouldn’t be let off lockside’. But the lockies today said that wasn’t right – lots of boaters have dogs and everyone on board should be entitled to use the facilities and to be safe.

Interestingly, the lockie told us that the river didn’t contain any fish below Northwich because of effluent from the salt works – there are only eels. So I guess that does explain the salinity down at Weston Marsh. You can tell that the river has changed because Hunt’s lock is covered with freshwater mussels.

The lockies at Hunt’s lock didn’t think we’d make it to Vale Royal lock in time for the 10.30 locking but they rang ahead anyway to tell them we were on our way. I’ll say it again, the lock-keepers on this river are priceless.

Convoy coming dowstream

Convoy coming downstream

We didn’t think we’d make the next lock either. The stretch from Hunts Lock to Vale Royal Lock was slow and uninviting (though quite beautiful). We had a multitude of fishermen shouting at us from one side and rowers shouting at us from the other – and at 800 revs we couldn’t get away from them!

As we approached Vale Royal lock we saw a whole convoy of boats coming down-river – the 10am lock down – our hearts sank. But as the last boat passed us he told us that the lockies were waiting for us and that we should go straight in – hurrah! This saved us a 2-hour wait and we were so grateful. But the lock-keepers here were as obliging as the rest of their colleagues. It’s a slow old lock and, once again, a massive amount of manual labour is needed to move the lockgates and manoeuvre the hydraulic sluices. There are big building works going on at this lock – Richard’s New Civil Engineer has  this interesting article about what’s being done there.

Immacualately behaved lock keepers dog

One of the immaculately behaved lock keeper's dogs

Mind you, what really slowed the lock was us chatting to the lockie! We mentioned that we’d been shouted at by the fishermen and the rowers and the lock-keeper told us to ignore them – the navigation’s for navigating. It was so nice to have someone on our side at last!

Vale Royal Lock is fascinating because of its hydraulic gear, but it also has a massive swing bridge – hardly necessary with bridges across both lock-gates, but it was still in operation. Maybe it’s there for the lockie’s two immaculately trained black Labradors – the older one lay in the middle of the bridge and seemed to be enjoying the ride as it was swung open!

There’s something very special about the stretch immediately above Vale Royal Lock. Greygal had recommended it to us as a top spot for dogs, and so it proved. There are very fine moorings a little way up from the lock – there were half a dozen narrowboats here when we passed upriver and we were a bit concerned that we might not get a spot on the way back. But we needn’t have worried, they’d all disappeared – presumably for the 12pm lock downriver.

It was no effort to spend the rest of the morning exploring this end of the Weaver. It really is lovely here – quiet and isolated with a fine towpath running through some perfect dog-rummaging country. There were a few walkers around – just enough to make it sociable.

Duck Sue

Duck Sue

Newbridge swingbridge provides a classic boating dilemma – “will we fit under or not”? There is a water level marker by the bridge but that is only useful if you know exactly how high your boat is what with the three main variables of the fullness (or otherwise) of the toilet, water and diesel tanks. We crept up to the bridge and decided that if the bike came off the roof then we’d just about get through. We had a few inches clearance – plenty – though I ducked anyway!

The lockie at Vale Royal had told us not to bother with Winsford town – he said it was ‘depressing’. I was expecting another gloomy end to the navigation but actually Winsford’s not really visible from the water and the Red Lion pub, with its convenient mooring pontoon, looked far from depressing. We passed nb Penhale here – I wonder if they visited the pub? We moved on, having decided to go right up to Winsford flash (the lockie had advised us that narrowboats could get up there though it was shallow in places). The approach to the flash is deceptively narrow and overgrown – even though we knew it was there, it was still a surprise to see the expanse of the ‘flash’ itself. We didn’t go far in – the sailing club was enjoying the brisk winds a little further on and we didn’t want to disturb them. We turned by the moored boats and did not get grounded!

More gorgeous scenery just below the flash

More gorgeous scenery just below the flash

We enjoyed the cruise back to the Vale Royal moorings – a 2-way trip isn’t a chore when the surroundings are so lush. We moored well back from the sole boat at the moorings and let the dogs have a rummage. Strangely, they didn’t spend much time off the boat – we’ve got a theory that Blue only likes rummaging if it’s slightly illicit, if its allowed then it’s no fun at all!

It was such a pleasant spot here that we decided to ditch our plans for rushing to the Anderton this evening. It was good to have an early finish – we were all moored up by 1.30pm. The swans and assorted wildfowl who live on the nearby weir soon came to the side-hatch for their lunch – half a loaf of bread (full of high-energy seeds) later and they were showing no signs of going away!

I was glad that we’d decided to moor up for the afternoon – the weather, which had been fine, broke down to torrential squally showers – it was good to be snug inside. With the weather so foul I couldn’t be bothered to explore our surroundings and had a siesta instead – bliss!. Richard was a bit more active – nb Penhale had caught up with us by then (waiting for the afternoon lock downriver). Richard took Blue and Lou to meet their little whippet – much barking ensued, mainly from Lou.

Entering the flash

Entering the flash

He also took the dogs for a long walk between showers; well, almost between showers – they managed to find the smelliest, muddiest path then they got caught in a torrential shower –  predictably they returned to the boat muddy, smelly and soaking.

Once again we closed the hatches and settled in for a snug evening on board. I roused myself to cook supper (in my pyjamas) and we settled down to some more DVDs. Although I’d only got up at 5.30pm I was ready for bed again by 10pm! But the mooring wasn’t quite as quiet as we’d expected – the noise of the fireworks (probably the end-of-music- festival celebrations at Preston Brook), echoed across the water, and the loud strains of heavy metal drifted down the river from the direction of Winsoford – all very curious. It was all over by 10.30pm and a blanket of silence ensured a good night’s sleep for all.

Photoblog

Having ones own fire engine is obviously key boatyard equipment?

Having ones own fire engine is obviously key boatyard equipment?

Big windlasses, funny shaped pieces of wood, you need it all to work this lock!

Big windlasses, funny shaped pieces of wood, you need it all to work this lock! It is a shame that the water turbines now only work on one side

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Working Rock Salt Mine

Working Rock Salt Mine

odd bits of old industry

odd bits of old industry

but such a good cruise

but such a good cruise

Salting his catch?

Salting his catch?

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First a duck comes for some bread ....

First a duck comes for some bread ....

Is that food ?

Is that food ?

need to get in fast

need to get in fast

They are coming in fast

They are coming in fast

in formation

in formation

closer spaced then the planes at Heathrow

closer spaced then the planes at Heathrow

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Look, you have to feed me, I walk on water

Look, you have to feed me, I walk on water

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